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Soft skills made the difference for Luka Dončić

How it all began

It was over ten years ago that I first met Luka Dončić. His school was playing against my son’s school in a Primary school basketball league game. Most of the kids were focused on dribbling and scoring, or at least trying to score. Luka was different; he was way ahead of the other players. He could read the game well; passing when necessary and taking a shot at the opportune moment. Even though he was much better than his teammates, he included all of them in the play. Luka was a genuine all-round player. A year or so later he left for Spain and launched his professional career.

NBA career

Today, Luka is one of the top NBA players. After he was selected with the third overall pick by Atlanta Hawks in the 2018 draft at just 18 years old, he joined the Dallas Mavericks. In one of the interviews, Dallas Maverick’s owner Mark Cuban was asked why he wanted to hire Luka. His reasons were to the point, citing character, discipline, resilience and continuous improvement. Soft skills are hard to master, but they are absolutely essential for success.

Soft skills in NBA basketball league

For Cuban, it starts with self-awareness; we need to know our own strengths and weaknesses. It’s all about continuous improvement. Good basketball players are disciplined, hard-working and resilient. Many of them get injured, but they come back better. They are hungrier to play and win, but most of all, they never quit.

Cuban says: “People talk a big game, but they just don’t put in the work, and that’s why they don’t become superstars. All successful players outwork the competition. Of course, they are talented, but they work hard”. Cuban talked about basketball players, but what about the rest of us?  How critical are soft skills for us and business as a whole?

Soft skills in other professions

Soft skills in a business amount to so much more than just teamwork, good communication and negotiation skills. Resilience, for instance, how many times have we heard about resilience in the past year? The Covid-19 pandemic has established a new normal, and without resilience, it will be difficult to adjust.

Creativity; here too, the pandemic has forced us to think out of the box. When it comes to virtual meetings, we may all agree that there is no comparison to a live meeting, especially an interview. It is vitally important to meet the person face to face, to interact with them, and to be able to observe body language. This is nearly impossible over a zoom call. But with limited choices, we have to try to make the best of it. We need to embrace this new way of communication and learn how to gain an advantage from itThe ability to adapt and to continually search for a better solution is essential.

For Recruiters and HR professionals, it is essential to recognize the candidate’s soft skills and, more importantly, recognize the lack of these skills. After the candidate is selected, the process of developing soft skills begins. It should be part of the employee’s development programme, but this depends on what they lack. This is the starting point for any training, mentoring programme or coaching.

Article written by Jana Terčelj, CFR Global Executive Search Serbia

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